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 Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ DLC Review: More of the Same

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PostSubject: Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ DLC Review: More of the Same   Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:58 pm

Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ DLC Review: More of the Same

It’s important, when sitting down to review a game, to judge that game on what it is rather than what we wish it was. It isn’t fair to ask a game to be something it fundamentally is not, and get mad at it for failing to change its nature.

So in the case of the “Omega” DLC pack for Mass Effect 3, I’m forced to ask what the game is and is supposed to be, and try to judge it on the merits of that, rather than lamenting that it is not something I wish it was. In those terms, Omega is a fast-paced, longish bit of Mass Effect 3 DLC with a lot to offer — a couple new baddies, a few new weapons, the chance to revisit the often-beautiful and expansive locale of Omega, and an opportunity to fight alongside one of the more intriguing characters in the series in Aria T’Loak.

What it is not is especially gripping, or illuminating, or even exciting. It is a story of you, Commander Shepard, fighting some military battles, in a game that’s filled with stories of you fighting military battles. Aria commands troops and directs you to choke-points. You protect doorways and clear enemies. Other characters appear. There is light arguing over which strategy is the best strategy, and a little moralizing as well.

To judge Omega by what it is, I think, is to say that it is good. It is a sizable piece of DLC and you’ll get your money’s worth. And it is very much more of the same in terms of what we’ve seen before in Mass Effect 3, and that makes it unremarkable. In the end, it’s as much a competent addition to the game as it is a tiresome one.

Mass Effect 3 ‘Omega’ DLC

Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: Nov. 27, 2012
MSRP: $14.99

Pirate Queen Aria T’Loak was ousted from her throne on Omega, the den of scum and villainy nearest to known Reaper territory pre-Reaper War. She was thrown off the station by Cerberus, though, not the Reapers — Cerberus being that pro-humanity group that has fallen under Reaper control (you know…more or less) and therefore is also evil. Eventually, Aria means to go back and kick Cerberus’s ass off the rock.

And that’s the story of this DLC. It’s pretty straightforward: In order for Shepard to get what he needs from Aria, which is mercenary troopers and that magical Element Zero, with which the Omega asteroid is rich, he needs to help remove Cerberus from the station. Oh, and there are some thousands of folks still living on said station, and they could probably use a hand, too.

The next three hours send Shepard and Aria gunning through the tunnels, halls, buildings, clubs, mines and reactors of Omega, and if there’s one thing the DLC gets right, it’s the tour of that enormous asteroid-turned-space station. There are a ton of huge, sprawling locales to play through (though for the most part, your path through them remains entirely linear), and though Omega is mostly various shades of brown, at least there are some cool places to look at along the way, filled with humming machinery and coursing water and electricity. This is Omega as we haven’t had a chance to see it yet — not just “Bad Guy Citadel,” as in Mass Effect 2, but a viable living and working space, where it makes sense that civilians might endure the criminals, at least if you stretch your imagination.

Along the way, Omega introduces a few new tricks that you have to deal with. First, there are the ever-present Cerberus troops, who love to lay down turrets in your path, throw smoke grenades, snipe at you and generally scream a lot. Mixed in are Rampart mechs, a stronger version of the robots you scrapped en masse in Mass Effect 2 and 3, which have been outfitted with new gear and are quite a bit more front assault-oriented than previous versions. Finally, there’s a new monstrosity I won’t spoil, except to say that it’s treated as if it’s the scariest thing ever, despite the fact that Shepard and his team routinely mow its ilk down with little difficulty. It’s certainly no banshee.

Speaking of Shepard’s team, you won’t have your usual squadmates through the course of Omega — rather, you fight alongside Aria almost the entire time, and are often joined by the female turian Nyreen. Both characters bring something to the experience: Aria is driven by revenge (although what exactly she’s revenging, I’m not sure) against the Cerberus general who betrayed her (according to the Codex entry), while Nyreen is a former soldier who sides with Omega’s people, rather than Aria’s lust for power. They’re continually arguing over how to handle the battle against Cerberus, but it’s not much of a debate, really — Nyreen wants you to not blow everyone up, and Aria could care less if you do.

As it turns out, despite this debate coming up again and again, there seem to be precisely zero consequences to your choices in terms of whether you are willing to sacrifice the innocent or not. In fact, it’s not even much of a choice: The one moment in which Shepard gets to make that call in any meaningful way feels more like a “gotcha” moment in which the game tricks you into doing something unnecessary, rather than a real moral conundrum. It’s represented as an interrupt during a heated moment, and by letting it pass, I wasn’t treated to any negative effects at all. Saved everybody. No problem.

The weakness of Omega is that there are little to no stakes involved at all. First off, we all know how this ends: Shepard and Aria retake Omega. Neither will perish during the fighting, since Aria is ensconced on the Citadel for the duration of Mass Effect 3. Nyreen’s a likable-enough character, but underdeveloped and seemingly existing only to counter Aria; she’s not enough to drive the story, and she’s not even around for about half the DLC. Who cares about the faceless thugs and “civilians” of Omega? Not me, unfortunately.

And so the resultant experience is, all in all, rather boring. Why are we fighting a war on Omega at all? We can say it’s for all those apparent poor souls trapped on the rock, but it’s really for “eezo,” which is the Mass Effect universe’s equivalent of oil. And we don’t need it that badly, really, because we know how the whole thing ends. There’s no new insight into the minds of the increasingly evil-for-evil’s-sake Cerberus organization, little in the way of character development for Nyreen or Aria, and too few moments that don’t involve Commander Shepard pumping bullets into noggins.

I found Omega competent enough, but unexiting, in the end. Maybe it’s Mass Effect fatigue at this point, or perhaps the heavy emphasis on action on Omega over RPG elements, or maybe it’s just that the storytelling in these DLC excerpts has found no real way of conveying smaller tales that are worth hearing in the frame of Mass Effect 3. That said, if you want to revisit Omega, see its locales, and shoot lots more guys — that is, if you want more of the superficial elements of the Mass Effect 3 formula — then it’s here, and there’s a fair bit of it, and you’ll feel your $15 was well-spent. The rest of us, though: we might be a little bored.

  • Lengthy, competent DLC that finally takes us back to Omega
  • Lots of fights that take place across a number of Omega locales; most of them are gorgeous
  • Spending the entire DLC with two “new” characters — Aria and Nyreen — is a cool approach
  • New enemies change up some fights fairly significantly
  • Several varying set pieces that change up the action

  • There really are no stakes and nothing much gained by “taking back Omega”
  • Aria and Nyreen are kinda fun, but not especially deep characters
  • Not much story here that’s meaningfully new or different
  • Choices are rare and don’t feel significant
  • Very little in the way of RPG stuff — mostly, this is shooting and shooting and shooting

Final Score: 75/100
Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Gamers' Hawk on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamershawk and also
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